About 30 seconds into the best song you probably never heard, the tears began to flow. I can’t make it through Radney Foster’s gorgeous “Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)” without crying. I hadn’t thought about the song in a few years.
A close friend recently gave birth to a child, and the subject of lullabies was bandied about – and I realized how much I missed that part of parenthood. My mind immediately raced back to my daughter Jillian’s toddler days and what my wife and I would serenade her with during the early evening and sometimes in the wee small hours.
Every night, we would harmonize our way through the song just like Foster and Emmylou Harris, who lent her vocals to the song: “The rockets racer’s all tuckered out / Superman in pajamas on the couch / Goodnight Moon, we’ll find the mouse / And I love you.”
It’s so beautiful, and it hit even deeper after speaking with Foster, who detailed that it was written after his divorce and custody split. “God bless Mommy and matchbox cars / God bless Dad and thanks for the stars / God hears amen wherever we are / And I love you / Oh my love will fly to you each night on angels wings.”
We switched out “Godspeed, little man” for “Godspeed, little Jillian.” I love that song so much that I gushed about it once to Kenny Loggins, who has recorded some children’s material. I suggested that Loggins check out the song.
The pop star, who had massive hits with “Footloose” and “Danger Zone,” said maybe he would do just that. Loggins asked for the title at the end of our chat, but I changed direction. I love that song so much that it felt like it was mine, and I convinced Loggins that the tune wouldn’t work for him. I never wanted anyone else to record “Godspeed” since they could possibly ruin it.
Loggins never covered it, but the Dixie Chicks recorded a version of “Godspeed.” I could never bring myself to listen to it. What makes it worse is that if you Google “Godspeed,” what pops up first is the Dixie Chicks’ version.
There’s a scene in the sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” in which the characters Marshall and Lily stage an elaborate lullaby jam for their baby, which echoed what we executed for our daughter. I detailed Jillian’s bedtime routine down to the last detail whenever my sister-in-law babysat my daughter, and she followed the instructions to the tee.
There were other lullabies rendered, ranging from the obscure but brilliant Nick Drake-esque “Mr. Chess” from Duncan Sheik to the Beatles’ “Golden Slumbers.”
Paul McCartney was inspired to craft the latter after coming across the 1603 poem “Cradle Song,” as he was often moved by classic material. “Golden Slumbers” is lovely, and so is John Lennon’s stunning “Beautiful Boy,” which was written after the birth of his son, Sean. Both are wonderful songs to cap the night with after spending the day with your baby.
I often mixed in Jeff Buckley’s otherworldly version of Leonard Cohen’s timeless “Hallelujah.” There are many covers of the soaring gem, but nobody touches the late Buckley’s take.
It’s not a lullaby, but Buckley’s “Eternal Life” had a huge impact on Jillian. Whenever I would play Buckley’s ode to his heroes, Led Zeppelin, Jillian would freak out. My little redhead would jump around and flail away as if she was waiting for a mosh pit to arrive.
Teddy Bears and fluffy toys would be tossed from her crib to the floor, and Jillian would grab the bars and jump and sway her head while sporting her happiest grin.
Ah, those were the days. Yes, we continued singing lullabies to our son, Eddie, but for some reason they weren’t as memorable. Perhaps that was due to the distractions provided by Jillian.
The next two children, Milo and Jane, were serenaded infrequently. “I need more diapers, and where are the wipes” were sing-screamed and occasionally had to pass for lullabies.
Most of my lullaby memories revolve around my days when I had one child. A friend had eight children, and I wondered how she managed, particularly at bedtime. I imagine the elder kids took turns as caretakers.
I treasure the memories of those nights when lullabies were rendered. That period was fleeting but magical. All parents should take advantage of such an opportunity to find their lullabies and connect with their child in such a wonderful fashion.
Crafting this column triggered a memory filed in the back of my mind that I’m so happy to dust off. I recalled the first lullaby I sang to Jillian, which is New Order’s “Temptation.”
The catchy dance cut from the 1980s’ finest singles band was sung as soon as I arrived home from the hospital and was about to place Jillian, who is now 21, in her crib. I remember opting to sit on the floor to belt out “Temptation” since I knew that an infant’s eyes often change after being exposed to light.
“Oh, you’ve got green eyes / Oh, you’ve got blue eyes / Oh, you’ve got gray eyes.” And then I whispered the penultimate line from the song, which couldn’t be more appropriate. Oh, “I never met anyone quite like you before.”
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